E-Payers are on the Go: Do You Offer a Mobile Payments Solution to Keep Up with Them?

(This article is republished from The Alliance for Innovation’s August 2015 Solutions Journal.)

If you don’t offer citizens a mobile payment solution, you’re underserving a huge portion of your citizen base. Consider this: Fiserv’s 7th Annual Billing Household Survey noted that mobile bill payers grew by 69% in 2014.

In fact, mobile is growing more rapidly than the Internet did 15 years ago. 62% of Americans over the age of 12 have a smartphone. Eliminate those 55 and older, and that number jumps to almost 75%, according to the April 25, 2014 Edison Research and Triton Digital. In May, Google V.P. Jerry Dischler said, “We’ve hit an inflection point” in his announcement that Google now has more searches via mobile devices than PC searches.

Along with the tech-savvy, younger generation who rely heavily on mobile, lower income demographics are substantial mobile users. According to a 2014 Pew Research Study, nearly half own a phone and access the Internet that way almost exclusively. The same study noted that 34% of U.S. mobile users go online mainly through their phones – that’s one in three people!

The above statistics overwhelmingly underscore why billers, especially local governments, need to provide a mobile billing and payment solution. Failure to do so means you’re overlooking a significant portion of your citizen base, many of whom have no other way to access your customer self-service offerings. You may not be able to choose your citizen base (young, old, rich, poor, Hispanic, non-Hispanic, etc.), but you can choose how they access their account information, receive communications and pay bills.

What’s more, you’re not only better serving your demographic but improving customer satisfaction too. A recent Latitude Group study indicated that 61% of people polled had a more favorable opinion of a company when they offered a good online experience, be it on a desktop or mobile device.

Make it easy and accessible for citizens to pay their utility, tax and other bills — you’ll see labor costs and delayed payments decrease, and customer satisfaction and the bottom line increase.

There’s an added value to the biller. Mobile transactions cost just 10 cents apiece, according to a 2013 Javelin Strategy & Research report, making them more cost-effective for the biller. They also increase efficiencies and revenue…another pretty compelling case for getting onboard with mobile billing and payments.

When consumers were asked to list the reasons they use mobile bill pay, most mentioned ease of use, time saved and convenience as the top reasons. The survey also found that paying and receiving bills through a smartphone boosted customer satisfaction by 60%. It is why mobile bill pay services should be a priority for every biller, especially local governments.

Provide Mobile Flexibility Along with Mobile Options

Consumers like options and that includes mobile bill payments too. In a world full of choices, options are no longer optional for most consumers … they’re expected. Municipalities should provide a myriad of mobile options that mirror citizen’s everyday communication methods. Doing so not only makes current mobile users happy but likely increases adoption rates by encouraging new users to pay with their mobile devices. Services should include:

  • Pay-by-Text: With four out of five adults texting, this payment method makes perfect sense. Citizens can review their balance and make a payment without ever opening an envelope. It’s the fastest way to go paperless and makes bill paying easier. It’s more cost-effective for billers, since they’re more likely to get paid on time, and as mentioned earlier, per transaction fees are less expensive too.
  • Pay-by-Email: Another ultra-fast way to go paperless and accept payments is through a secure, “push” pay-by-email service. You send your citizens emails that contain a secure, interactive PDF billing statement. Citizens can then review their full bill and make a payment directly from their email inbox on any connected device. Fast and convenient, and a great way to attract more paperless users.
  • Mobile Web Bill-Pay Sites: “Responsive” mobile web sites are quickly becoming the standard and preferred mobile option for municipal billers. Regardless of what device (e.g., laptop, tablet, smartphone) your citizens are using to pay their bill, your web pages will render consistently on any size screen. Gone are the days of pinching and zooming unwieldy web pages that were built for PCs. Your citizens will appreciate the simplicity of mobile web pages optimized for big and small screens alike.
  • Downloadable Mobile “Apps”: While responsive websites are quickly becoming the norm for mobile, some municipalities opt to provide citizens with downloadable mobile “apps”. Available from iTunes and Google Play, apps allow users to review bills even when they aren’t connected. The primary challenge with apps is that each must be supported on every mobile platform, which can increase support and maintenance costs.
  • Outbound Messaging: Proactive outbound messaging is a very important part of any successful mobile bill-pay solution. Because customers so often use their paper bill as their reminder to pay, it can be difficult to get them to move to paper-free eBilling. A reliable phone, text, and email notification service that is integrated with your bill-pay program can make a huge difference in changing customers perceptions of paperless billing. Our survey of hundreds of utilities currently using our messaging service has proven that their customers are universally appreciative of the timely account notifications they receive. Shut-offs to due late payment are proven to decline more than 30% too.
Reach Out and Serve Your Key Demographics

You won’t reach key demographics (those who don’t use other online payment channels) without a mobile strategy. For example, the previously mentioned Pew study indicated that over half of Latino adults live in cell phone only households. Additionally, Hispanic millennials (i.e., 18-34 year olds) are 66% more likely to go online via mobile than non-Hispanic whites.

Mobile-first users are the new norm. These users can’t or simply won’t spend the time to boot up their PC, log on and surf the web. Instead, they’re opting to do these things on the go in a way that is more convenient for them.

Employing Level 1 PCI compliant, mobile service offerings will help local governments attract and convert “net new” users – those who wouldn’t access your online bill-pay site without the use of their phone. In turn, your overall adoption rates will rise substantially. It’s a win-win situation and a great opportunity for additional cost savings for your business.

John Schott

Vice President

With more than 20 years of experience, John has worked with hundreds of billing organizations across North America. John is an expert in usability and is a frequent speaker on the topic of paperless billing and electronic payment best practices, including strategies for customer adoption, security and compliance, staff productivity, and process and technology optimization.